National Park and AONB Review

The Government has announced a review of National Park and AONB designations and roles.  Malvern Hills AONBThe terms of reference for the review, that starts in June and will report in 2019, are:

  • the existing statutory purposes for National Parks and AONBs and how effectively they are being met
  • the alignment of these purposes with the goals set out in the 25-Year Plan for the Environment
  • the case for extension or creation of new designated areas
  • how to improve individual and collective governance of National Parks and AONBs, and how that governance interacts with other national assets
  • the financing of National Parks and AONBs
  • how to enhance the environment and biodiversity in existing designations
  • how to build on the existing eight-point plan for National Parks and to connect more people with the natural environment from all sections of society and improve health and wellbeing
  • how well National Parks and AONBs support communities

Expanding on work already underway, the review will also take advice from Natural England on the process of designating National Parks and AONBs and extending boundary areas, with a view to improving and expediting the process.

The terms of reference also state:

“In 1949, the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act established these national parks, which the minister of the day described as “the most exciting Act of the post-war Parliament.” That legislation created a statutory framework for National Parks and AONBs. In brief, National Parks’ purposes are to conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage; and promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of national parks. For AONBs, the primary purpose is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area. Now, as the oldest National Park approaches its 70th anniversary, comes a chance to renew this mission. That is the context in which this review takes place.”

The review will hear evidence from interested groups and individuals.

Quantock Hills AONBFunding of AONBs will be a key issue. Traditionally they have been the poorer relative, dependent upon support and finances from their local councils, whereas the National Parks are nationally funded.  With local government finances under increasing amounts of pressure for the last 10 years and competing demand for resources for education, social care etc, AONBs have really struggled to secure their positions. Many have had to reduce their staff teams and activities down to a basic core. At the same time an inherent conservatism amongst some residents of AONBs, many of whom will have spent significant amounts moving into a protected landscape, have made it difficult for AONBs to diversify their activities and create new economic opportunities. The government’s review is perhaps the time to put AONB funding on a more secure and sustainable footing.

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